Have We Gone Too Far with New Anti-Bullying Law?
There is a new sheriff in town in Massachusetts — ok, it’s a law not a sheriff — and it’s well intended but ineffective. Worse, its vagaries are having unintentional consequences. Like lawsuits from parents against schools when their kid is accused of being a bully. I understand that no one wants bullying and its new evil cousin, cyber bullying, to run rampant in their community but this law seems like a knee jerk reaction to seem like it’s solving a problem when the “solution” is actually part of the problem.
Is this just politics as usual? Politicians jumping on the bandwagon for future elections to be “against bullying”? Is this just like when politicians say they are tough on crime? I mean, which politician has ever declared that they are soft on crime? Or for bullies? I wonder if our attorney general had anything to do with this new law. You can count on her to pursue topics that get her name in the paper. And this kind of half-baked law reminds me of her recent disastrous campaign for senator. (And it’s always so disappointing when a female leader who has the potential to be a great role model just doesn’t hack it.)Am I jaded? Maybe…
My kids are getting an education on bullying at school with lots of anti-bullying “town meetings” or even small groups. Of course, their real lesson in bullying was watching it in action as either the bystander or the victim. Did the anti bullying education work? Not really. It seemed to confuse my kids as much as it sensitized them. There was a lot of talk about the last music teacher being a bully because he yelled at the kids a lot. I don’t think that was the intention of their school anti-bullying program! Did it stop the bullying behavior? For my oldest who has experienced such extreme bad girl bullying behavior since Kindergarten such that the school social worker declared it the worst she’s seen in her multi-decade long career, I would have to say no! The only real effective anti-bullying program that I’ve run across is this intensive program that teaches empathy by bringing in a baby into the classroom and my school is not doing that.
What do you think of this article and what has your experience been with bullying at your school, either bullies or anti-bullying programs. Has anyone had the baby anti-bully program at their school? Also, what do you think of our new law in Massachusetts? I bet you can’t wait to get one of your own!
This article is from The Boston Globe. Click here for full article. Key paragraphs are below.
The state’s new law is so vague that it has led to unintended consequences
By Gregory C. Keating
- THE STATE’S new anti-bullying law is widely heralded as the most aggressive in the country. It criminalizes bullying and cyber-bullying by students, and requires schools to ferret out and respond to such incidents, many of which take place outside of school.
- The most acute is how it impacts the critical relationship between schools and parents. The statute does not put any responsibility on parents to stop bullying. Worse, rather than foster a shared approach to stop such behavior, the statute actually undermines any meaningful communication between parents and schools.
- Not only is the statute’s definition of “bullying’’ incredibly broad, it is replete with vague and interpretive language. For example, the statute rightfully defines bullying to include any act which causes physical or emotional harm. But it also goes on to define bullying as an action which “infringes on the rights of victims at school’’ or “materially and substantially disrupts the education process or the orderly operation of a school.’’ How exactly is a school official to decide if actions “infringe’’ on “rights’’ of others at school? Do we really want to invite claims of bullying for each and every claimed “disruption’’ of the “educational process’’?
- The law even goes so far as to mandate that schools monitor and respond to bullying that takes place outside of school, often through social media over which schools have no control. Should schools really shoulder the burden for monitoring and reporting this type of conduct? Is this not more properly in the purview of parents?
p.s. Here’s a follow up to the law: Most MA Schools File Anti-Bullying Proposals (The Boston Globe)
- Representative Marty Walz, chief author of the bullying prevention law, said the high rate of plan submission is evidence that schools are serious about prevention. But she said it was only a first step.
- The success of the law “will be measured by how well the schools prevent bullying,’’ she said. “This is just the beginning. . . . The important work of changing school climate is what’s ahead of us.’’
- Among the most effective antibullying programs, research has shown, are those that change school culture — often by involving entire school communities, including teachers, bullies, cafeteria workers, librarians, school bus drivers, and children who witness bullying, and imbuing them with a sense that bullying is not acceptable behavior.